He mentored MP, PT, Rabbit, Terry Fitz and dozens more, but always had a self-deprecating and generous manor. A charming man. Joe in his shed, crafting okanuis 10 years ago. Photo: Moonwalker


RIP JOE LARKIN – LARRIKIN LEGEND. THE INTERVIEW BY MAL SUTHERLAND, WITH PHOTOS
Friday, 21 July 2017

A influential, modest man gone, 20/7/17. This appeared as a major article in PLB 10 years ago (Vol 7#1) - a chat with his friend of 60 years Mal, with extras from Rabbit, PT Andy Mac and Carl Tanner.

Just off the main coast road at Cabarita is a neat beach cottage with a small fibro and galvanized iron shed located in the far corner of the property. Often found working in that shed is a skilled craftsman making incredibly beautiful hollow ply ‘okanui’ boards which belong to a different era.

That craftsman is Joe Larkin, one of the true characters of surfing.

Joe has witnessed the development of the sport from the days of the 16 foot paddle boards through to the modern era and has personally played a significant part in that evolution.

He has associated with, surfed with, made boards for, and even had the occasional drink with, some of the world’s best surfers, while some of the people he employed and trained have become giants of the industry.

While driving down the highway toward Cabarita, looking forward to my interview with Joe and thinking of all the questions I am going to ask, my mind unconsciously drifts into the past trying to recall when we first met.

It was sometime in 1957 when I was a Kirra gremmie (the term never existed in those days, let alone morphed into ‘grommet’) and was full of enthusiasm having just graduated from riding the 16 foot hollow logs to 10 foot okanui boards. Word had got around that Joe and his mate “Nipper” Williams were surfing Snapper Rocks, so a couple of us paddled across from Kirra to watch. We knew they had recently seen the Yanks surfing on their balsa boards at Torquay and Manly so we were keen to see what we could learn. Surfing tighter than we thought possible, they were allowing the board to run out onto the shoulder then pulling these long drawn-out turns which blew us away. Joe was so casual about it you could have sworn he was surfing while he was asleep.
Looking back  on that initial encounter, I could not have known that all these years later I would be interviewing him as one of surfing’s true legends.

I snap out of my reminiscing as I turn into the driveway. Welcomed by Joe, I’m shown into his converted garage and am immediately surrounded by memorabilia. The walls are covered with photos of his friends and family. Trophies and souvenirs from places he has been fill shelves and corners of the room; a judges jacket from the first World Titles, autographed by all the finalists, hangs on a rack, an early Hobie and a lone Joe Larkin foam board fill other spaces. But the most eye-catching of all is one of the 10 foot hollow ply masterpieces that he is making now.

We discuss old times for awhile, remembering some of the trips we did together, tell a few lies, have a lot of laughs, decide not to include some of his wilder exploits, and then settle into the interview. 

Let’s start right at the beginning. Where did you grow up and can you recall when you first started surfing?

I was born in 1933 and grew up at Freshie (Freshwater Beach, Sydney). My dad used to go surfing every day and my first recollection of surfing was on my father’s back at about four years of age.

When I was about seven or so, there was a bloke called Bo Sullivan who used to hang around Freshwater, I don’t know if he was Aboriginal or South Sea Islander, or just a dark-skinned European, he was considered to be a bit funny but he was a hell of a body surfer. He nearly drowned me but he taught me everything I know about body surfing and he taught a lot of the Freshie guys too. 

I got my first surfboard when I was nine. Freshie was just a barren headland at the time with an army camp where guys were getting bivouacked (for WW2). One of the young guys, about 18 or 19 from Harbord, who was leaving for the war said, “You’d better have my board Joe”. It was a solid board, a bloody heavy thing for a nine year old. I remember making a pair of wheels for it and me and my good mate, Peter Burke, used to trundle it down to the beach and then drag it down the sand to the waters-edge. It used to take us an hour and a half to get there and then we didn’t know what to do with it. That was my first introduction to board riding.

Surf clubs were a big part of our lives in the 40s and 50s.

 
Absolutely, out of all the kids that I knew who surfed, 99% of them were in surf clubs, or eventually joined. My dad wouldn’t let me join Freshwater, because of the numerous kegs they used to have there, so my first club was South Curl Curl, which in those days was fairly dry, the President was a teetotaler. 

A Baptist surf club?
 
(Much laughter) Yes, but all the other guys did drink, but there was nothing as fierce as Freshie. I rowed in the boat, I paddled a ski, and built my first 16 footer with help from Peter Burke in about 1948 when I was about 15. 
We went to Western Australia for the first Australian Championships ever held there, I think 1950 or ’51. What a trip that was, we went across the desert towing a boat, we were rowing the bloody thing around Port Augusta and in the Murray River, we were a hit wherever we went.

Regular pioneers.

Yeah!  It was absolute fun. We slept on the beach at Scarborough right in front of the hotel  (laughter).

What a coincidence, in front of the pub!

We just pulled off the road and slept on the beach.

You did your apprenticeship as a carpenter and you did a fair bit of travelling, where did you work?

I started at 14 and was out of my time by 19. After that we went out to the bush and then I came up to the Gold Coast. I had been up to the Gold Coast when I was an apprentice, stopping at Greenmount and that’s when I got to know John Cunningham and all those guys.

Did ‘Cunnie’ corrupt you?

I think we helped corrupt each other. Unbelievable fun, it was a really vibrant town then, it was jumping - Coolangatta jumped! Later on I ended up going to New Guinea, timber getting, gold digging and all that sort of thing, but I couldn’t stay away from the beach so I came back to Sydney and by pure arse got a job as a lifeguard at Manly. Beach Inspectors they were called in those days and that’s how I managed to be there when the Yanks first showed off their balsa boards.

You’re jumping the gun a bit Joe, go back, that’s one of the questions I was going to ask you later (laughter). When did you make your first board?

When I started my apprenticeship my boss let me buy a bit of timber from him. It took me about three years to pay him back, we did it hard. I’ve still got the old photos of it. It was pretty crude, pretty rough, and I am always amazed nowadays when people say they made their first surfboard and it was perfect, I wish to Christ I had been as good as that, mine was pretty ordinary I can tell you (laughter). The geniuses that can make their first surfboard perfect, I don’t believe it. 

You were a Beach Inspector when I first met you, which beaches?

Collaroy, Manly, Queenslcliff, we used to do a bit of interchanging but my main beach was North Steyne, the desert outpost we used to call it.  That’s where I was when the Yanks arrived in ’56

You as much as anyone can tell the story of the Yanks introducing their boards.


I’ve got that movie that I took of the Duke (Kahanamoku), and I think. . . gee the memory’s going. . .  Greg Noll, Tom Moore and Tom Zahn, all at Freshie Beach. I’ll never forget the officials, the blue coats, they kept pushing us young guys out of the way. But I had the camera so I just walked up and shook the Duke’s hand and said “how ya goin”. Next thing I knew I was on my arse, about eight of them picked me up and threw me out of the way.

Where is the movie now?


The actual film I haven’t got a clue, but someone had it copied onto tape and I’ve got it on video. After we saw the Yanks surf we realized we were completely on the wrong track with the 16 footers. There were a couple of the shorter boards at Bondi and a couple elsewhere, but no one had actually seen them ridden to potential, we didn’t know how to attack them. We then woke up to what we had been missing.

They left some of their boards here, did you get one?

No. Bobby Pike got one, Woodsy got one, Bobby Evans got one, but I had a look at one and that’s how we got to develop the plywood boards, because we had these balsa boards to copy, and at the time balsa was unavailable.

You were one of the first to make surf movies too. Weren’t you associated with Bob (Evans) for quite a while?

Yes. . . Bob and I were mates. We rode the 16 footers together, I’d known him since I was 14 or so. One day, it might have been when we saw the Bud Brown movies around ‘58, I raced down the road and traded the 8mm in and bought a 16mm and started shooting with that.

You saw surf movies a lot earlier in Sydney than we did up here in Queensland.


When Bud Brown came over, I ended up with one of those boards from Bill Coleman who came with him and I’ve still got it here, the Hobie Big Gun. The movies though, that was a great lot of fun because ‘Nugget’ May (sports commentator for the ABC) was a friend of mine. He was in Freshie surf club and the ABC guys helped us a lot with the technical aspects, setting up telephoto lens and getting an arm to attach to the tripod and lens to stop it vibrating and all that. We then traded it in on a Reflex and that started us doing something reasonably professional. . . ha ha ha. We used to get up to Bob’s joint or mine and splice it all together and duck down to Queenscliff Surf Club to show it. We had a wind up gramophone with ‘The Ride of the Valkyrie’ on it and that was a pumped up dadada dah, and the movie would be of the kids on a foot high wave (laughter). We used to get two bob a head and that helped pay for the film and everyone had a good time.

Some of your footage was on the ABC too.


Yeah. . .  I think we had some of the very first film taken by surfers on the ABC.

You came on a surfing trip to Coolangatta in ’61 and brought Bob Cooper with you. That trip has been documented by him, do you want to comment on that?

No. . . but. . .  his aspect of history was that he was the guru, and we knew nothing. You ask any of the other board makers, ask Barry Bennett or Gordon Woods. I’ll say very little about this, but, Bob was a nice guy and we looked after him pretty well, and I think he could have been more appreciative of what we taught him, rather than what he taught us (laughter).

You were working for Barry Bennett in 1962 when you decided to come to Kirra.  What prompted that decision?


Um. . . actually it was ’61 when I decided to start my own business. I had been up here talking to Bob Ryan (Bogangar Bob) and he was keen on it so I said okay, you be shaper and you can do your own models. I rented the joint in Miles Street, Kirra  in ’61. My girlfriend Lee had had a windfall, so I thought this will get the business underway, so I proposed marriage in a drunken stupor, thinking that she would tell me to piss off, and she accepted (much laughter).

What about the Sunbeam Alpine convertible?


I got that as my dowry (laughter). February 12th, that was 41 years ago, Lee and I were supposed to have lasted 6 months if we were lucky.

Done well. . . and now you have a great family and grandchildren.

Yeah. . . I’ve been very lucky.

The factory in Miles Street became the hangout for all the up and coming surfers in the area and over the years you employed and trained a lot of people - do you want to name a few?

There are a lot of guys that to-day no one knows of, but if you are talking about some of the ones who made it, Peter Townend, Rabbit came around, there was Michael Petersen, Brian (Furry) Austen who started the original Goodtime Surfboards, Mal Sutherland who was our top finish coater at one stage…ha ha ha! Graeme Black, Darrell ‘Rooster’ Dell, Gordon Merchant who is Mr. Billabong, Garry Birdsall, Mick Dooley, Peter Thomas who was a great glasser. He was with me when Cooper came up and he was the reason Cooper never got a job with me because Peter was a much better glasser. It’s as simple as that, sorry Bob, I don’t want to hurt your feelings, but that is the truth. 

Jim Spriggs, your Alsatian was the factory guard dog, whatever happened to him?

Believe it or not he was a pretty friendly dog outside the factory. His biggest claim to fame was ‘The Battle of the Cabbage Patch’. The dog was the instigator of a riot. I was away at Byron Bay and the boys took Spriggs to the Patch and of course the bouncers said get the bloody dog out. . . and kicked Spriggs up the arse. The next thing one of the boys broke a chair over a bouncer’s head, then there was a full-on riot, about 100 surfers. They called the police from Coolangatta and over from N.S.W. and it got pretty bad, the police were firing shots and all. I came back the next day, I had no money, but I’m bailing half a dozen guys out of jail because of my bloody dog  (much laughter).
It got the biggest write up in the Courier Mail. He was a great old dog but one day he just didn’t turn up, I looked everywhere for him even up as far as Noosa, but he just disappeared of the face of the planet. An amazing dog and an amazing disappearing act.

During the early 60s you were active in the formation of the Kirra Surfriders Club and the ASA Queensland, how did that come about?


You know more about this than me. Bob Evans had organised Ampol as sponsors of the first World Titles and wanted Queensland represented. He rang me, but I wasn’t overly enthusiastic and told him to ring you and it kind of took off from there. If I remember correctly we got the Association formed and the Titles organised in less than three months. I remember you were nominated to manage the Queensland Team and couldn’t go, so I very smartly put up my hand and took your place and ended up being a judge at the first World Titles.

How were the World Titles?


There was, and still is, some controversy about the judging. Forget about the controversy, because nobody knew how to judge, there were no rules. In the final there were six guys out in the water and there were six winners and the biggest winner of all was surfing.  At North Steyne it attracted the greatest crowds ever seen on any Sydney beach. . . it was incredible. I don’t think there’s been that sort of crowd since.

You had a back operation in the 60s.


Yes. My back got so bad that I had that operation and the doctors told me not to surf again. I believed them and it kept me out of surfing for a long, long while.

As well as being a good board rider you were an outstanding body surfer. That must have been hard.

I loved body surfing. It’s a hell of a lot of fun on the body. With leg ropes the kids don’t get the chance anymore. We used to lose our boards and naturally enough you would hang around out the back for a wave to body surf in. It’s an art that seems to be getting lost these days.

What made you get out of manufacturing boards?

When the boards became smaller there was the opportunity for the guys to get a 6ft blank and do it at home. You couldn’t be in the factory all the time and they would say to customers, “Oh yeah I’ll make you one for such and such a price”. I’m not being critical, I don’t blame them, I probably would have done the same thing myself.
It started becoming too fragmented and the big names didn’t mean anything anymore.  The backyarders became too numerous and while we were paying taxes, insurances and trying to cover our overheads, they weren’t paying any of that, so it just was not economically viable anymore. It happened to all of us, Woodsy to Scotty, Shane, Billy Wallace and Hohenesee. The only one I know who survived, apart from Bennett who was blowing foam, was Jacko on the south side and Hayden who started manufacturing surf craft for surf clubs.

After that you took on the management of the Hastings Point caravan park. Sort of dropped off the face of the planet for a while.


I was down there, suffering pretty badly from my back and I was pretty pissed off with the whole thing. Surfing had been my life and all of a sudden I couldn’t be involved anymore. The business going broke. . .  it was pretty depressing actually. Working for the Council was more depressing (laughter) but it kept the food coming in and educated the kids. . . it paid the bills. I’m pleased I had the job and ended up staying with them twenty odd years, but it was quite demeaning in a lot of ways.
The classic is that I could watch the ocean every day and know what time of the tide that the surf came on. Surfers would come and they didn’t know me or who I was and I‘d tell them “there’s a good wave out there” and they’d say “bullshit” and I’d say “you should have been here and hour ago” (laughter). That kept me going and in contact with the surfers.

When longboards became popular in the ‘90s were you tempted to start up again?


No. I didn’t want to know about it. I was never a bloody good businessman and over the years I’ve been out of it I’ve realised being a businessman wasn’t my go. I wasn’t tempted to go back into it, but my interest slowly rekindled when Col Kingsberry, who was my agent in Mackay in the good old days, asked me to be patron of Cabarita Boardriders Club. I sort of backed away, but he was insistent, so I became involved in about ’94 and they asked me to shape a foamie for a raffle and that was my first board for a long while.

You have been invited to some of the major longboard events.

The Noosa mob asked Lee and I up there a few years back and again last year and they paid for the accommodation as well. There was Gordon Woods, Scott Dillon, George Rice from Victoria and it was just great to be with all these old guys.  
The first year was when they staged the re-enactment of the first World Titles, brought out all the Yanks, LJ Richards, Joey Cabell, Mike Doyle plus Midget and Mick Dooley, it was a real buzz meeting up with them again.

Did the Yanks remember you?

Of course they didn’t. Not until I said I was the bloke that made you come second (laughter). I said it before, we have this ongoing controversy about the placings, but up there talking with Cabell, Doyle, Mick and Midget, they couldn’t give a shit about it.

 You know people can write about it, talk about it, but they were all winners.

What made you start making the old hollow ply boards again?


Billy Wallace. Bill had been making a couple and I said I might make one for the kids. Bill said go for it, so I did. I was halfway through the first one, feeling my way after all these years, about 40 years, when a bloke came around looked at it and said I’ll buy that off you. So it was as simple as that. I love doing them, it brings back all the old memories of the wooden boards,      and the old skills.

After all these years Peter Burke, who helped me make my first board, now has one of my 16 footers and a 10 foot ply okanui hanging on the wall of his Mill End Hotel.

You still have your original templates?


I’ve still got boards that we threw up in the roof half finished when balsa came in.  If people say the boards are not the same, I can prove they are. I’m using an original old board and original cedar stringers as templates.

Carl Tanner had you make a couple of balsa boards for him.


A big gun, a replica of Dave Jackman’s and also a replica of an Outrigger Club design of the 1930s. It’s beautiful looking even if I say so myself, it’s one of those old classic shapes.

What do you think of the design of the modern mals?


Because I’m an old fart, I think malibus are designed to be ridden as malibus. Probably, if I was a young bloke, I’d be wanting to do all the tricks on them myself, but I really can’t understand why you want a 9’6” board to do what a 5’8” board does. . .  to me it doesn’t make sense. What I loved about long boards was the gracefulness of them. Don’t get me wrong I love what the kids can do and I love watching them, but the beauty, the symmetry and the smoothness of longboarding is getting lost and that’s the part I really liked.

If you had your time over again, knowing how surfing has exploded, what would you change?

Absolutely nothing!  (laughter). There’s no going back, I’ve loved every minute of it.  I’m so happy to have been lucky enough to be born in that era where we could make our mistakes. . .  it wasn’t already set out for you and we learnt day by day, board by board, the whole process. A man’s very lucky to have been a carpenter number one, to love surfing, even before the 10 footers arrived, to have been there at the beginning and right through it all and to have seen the evolution of it. I keep saying that I like the old style of malibu riding, it’s not that I want to go backwards, but I appreciate the beauty of that style of riding.

Having said that, I still love watching the explosive surfing of the kids on their short boards. It’s unbelievable the things they come up with. . .   I love it all.    

----------------------------
MAL:
It was hard to condense a lifetime of Joe’s experiences into a two hour interview and we only brushed over the surface of his exploits and his contribution to surfing.
As always, after spending time with Joe, you leave feeling good, having had a good laugh and knowing that Joe has thoroughly enjoyed everything that he has done in his lifetime.

Footnote: At the dedication of a plaque at Kirra to the late Johnny Charlton, Alderman Sue Robbins inadvertently referred to Johnny’s mate Joe as Joe Larrikin which bought a huge roar from the people gathered. Little did she know how right she got it.

ON JOE:


Wayne “Rabbit” Bartholomew

I first visited the Joe Larkin factory at Kirra in 1965. I went looking for a second hand surfboard. I had no money and therefore no intention of purchasing one, but I was really stoked about actually being in the showroom talking the talk with shaper Brian Austin. Little did I know at that time what a great friendship I would forge with Joe himself.
Joe was a mentor to me in the late 60s, early 70s. The Larkin factory was a thriving brains trust of invention. I cannot recall a more dynamic environment. There was Graeme Black and Brian ‘Furry’ Austin, two great surfers from Kirra. It was where Gordon Merchant was refining the modern surfboard, introducing the tucked under edge to the new shortboards being churned out by the dozen.

Michael Peterson and Peter Townend were the sponsored surfers, and me and Dave McDonald were hanging around doing dings, cleaning up and basically trying not to burn the factory down with my latest hotmix. It was awesome. Innovations were coming out of there weekly. Great debates raged over lunch about the merits of certain designs, or fins, or bottom curves, and then Gordon and MP and PT would lock themselves back in their shaping bays and bust out a new template or fin design.

When Terry Fitzgerald did an eighteen month stint at Joes in 69/70, it probably represented the most dynamic period in the Joe Larkin era. Things were changing overnight, the shortboard revolution was in full swing and Hawaiian gun design was influencing Australian design for the first time. And the Joe Larkin factory was the epicentre of new age design. Plus MP, PT, Fitz, Gordon, Blacky, Furry, Macca and me were test driving the new inventions at epic pre-groyne Kirra.

And throughout this whole dynamic period, Joe was as kicked back as ever. He would open the lunchtime debate and sit back with a `rollie’ while some of the world’s foremost surfing minds espoused their theories and basically called bullshit on each other. You see, only Joe could harness that sort of rare talent. He instinctively knew how to deal with massive egos. Just cut straight through the bullshit and get on with the task of producing the best boards on the market. While he outwardly appeared very nonchalant, Joe meticulously oversaw the entire production process. In Blacky and the infamous Victor Preston, Joe also had the two best glassers in the business, and the world’s best buffer and polisher in yours truly (only kidding, Joe hardly let me near the product, but I sure did have a mean sweep of the broom going).

Yeah, Joe is a special guy. No frills, cut to the chase, tell it like it is. But he had an eye for talent, and nurtured and mentored it in such a subtle fashion that the subject didn’t even know he was being worked on. Now that is a skill. Love ya work Joe. All the best.

Terry Fitzgerald

After I landed on the Goldie I was introduced to Brian 'Furrie' Austin and Joe Larkin through Joe's sander Vic Preston. Joe took me in and gave me a chance to play around with design ideas and eventually learn to shape as Furrie taught me the tools. When someone came into the Miles Street shop and bought a board off the rack, I'd be there to replace it with one of my own stockies, , , and eat again!

Furrie was a master craftsman and many owe our tradecraft to him. Joe's influence was a bit more 'commonsense'. Application, dedication, quality.  Almost a father figure who owned a surfboard factory, drove us all over the country and put up with all his children. . . lovingly.
Every one of us who came through Joe's school ended up with a degree in
resin or foamology and a healthy respect for Joe's support and friendship.
I can gladly say I am one of the fortunate ones.

My only regret was having to leave and move onto production shaping and then Hawaii. Telling Joe, that Pauline and I were going was tough. To be honest I have often thought about that night in Griffith Street beside Joe's blue van. It never has sat right. . . I guess I'll have to have a beer with the old bugger sooner than later.

But, if I know Joe, he has enjoyed the success we have had. He can be rightfully proud because he set us on our way. . . and I hope he is proud of us all, because without him, there are a whole bunch of people who would not be who, or, where they are in the surfing industry today.

Andrew McKinnon

Joe was a classic and still is - a wise old surfing sage. As grommets we loved him like a father figure. A naturally gifted craftsman with a great zest for life and laughing. He sponsored me for three months in 1971, free boards shaped by the legendary Brian "Furry" Austin who taught Fitz, PT and MP how to shape. I was privileged to join that illustrious team and I got paid the princely sum of 10 bucks a week which was big in those days, especially to get paid to surf at 17!
My most memorable trip with Joe and the Larkin "Larrikin" team was to the annual 1971 Newcastle Mattara contest. On board was PT, Rabbit and MP, the junior team all packed into Joe's camper. I was runner-up, PT third, MP fourth, Bugs was just a baby then. Joe and the boys were full on, can you imagine the psyching out between us? And good old Joe with that beautiful smiling cheeky face tried to keep us all under control.

He was always fun to be with. Although I remember one night at the Kirra Hotel after an ASAQ meeting, my mate Lawrie Noonan showed a movie of us all surfing in 68, perfect waves at Snapper for the state titles. Drouyn won the Opens, Robye Deane won the Juniors from his brother Wayne. I made the finals. It was a huge turnout with all the Gold Coast clubs attending as they did in those days. All the clans and the best surfers on the Goldie were there watching. It was to be a proud moment of gloating until Joe walked in - in a rather salubrious state with that larrikin grin, of course he was renowned for being a party animal which was only just part of his huge personality.

Everyone was glued to the screen, silent, I mean local surf movies were a rarity in those days. There was no soundtrack or audio for the movie, so Joe who appeared bored cause he wanted to party, immediately took over as the unofficial narrator and paid us out mercilessly. When my waves came up he called me little Midget provoking howls of laughter, everyone was just breaking up and I just wanted to hide under a rock. Reflecting back it was the funniest thing, because Joe had a bit of the old vaudeville comedian talent in him, it was such a heavy pay out but it was absolutely a brilliant performance!

 Joe has played a major role in the Australian surfing history. He put Queensland on the surfing map and as it turned out helped to breed two world surfing champions in PT and Rabb and of course MP He's a classic joker with a heart of gold and he still makes me laugh. Good on ya Joe and thanks for the good times mate.
 
 Carl Tanner   

At the 2001 Malfunction on the Gold Coast I had the privilege to ride one of Joe’s hollow plywood Okanui boards in the Sponsors Expression Session. To me this was the pinnacle of knowing and worshiping Joe over a 40 years period.

In 1960 I was a gremmie surfing at Kirra and Greenmount surfing an old balsa board that I’d bought from a friend at school for 10 quid I’d saved from working at my parents shop in Tweed Heads over the Christmas holidays. I really wanted a new Larkin board like all the local hot surfers but made do with that plank, vowing that someday I’d own a Larkin. Those years I hung around Joe‘s little factory shop behind Kirra and ogled the techniques of board building. These days, I have too numerous to mention examples of Joe Larkin boards

Joe was every kid’s idol after moving from Sydney to Queensland. He surfed, made the best boards, partied and drank like the best of them, cruised the area in a nice little Sunbeam Alpine convertible with a board as his passenger and seemed to enjoy life to it’s fullest.

When I returned to the Gold Coast in 1980 after years of travelling, I started my board collection. My first acquisitions being a Larkin “Graeme Black Tracker”, then followed by the Original Stringer Green 9’6” board that was hanging at the entrance to the Old Surfers Beer Garden Surf Museum. A few years back I managed to acquire a Larkin “Morning of the Earth” single fin shaped by MP in ’69. And so the collection goes on.  The man’s involvement in all the pinnacles of the industry has been astounding.

Some day I’d like to say I have every version of surf craft that this master builder has had anything to do with. I have my eye on one of Joe’s original hollow plywood boards made in the 50s (What about it Jack?).



Finishing in the fresh air at the Kirra factory, two blocks from The Point. By the mid ’60s Larkin volan longboards were the yardstick among manufacturers and super popular among good surfers from Crescent to Noosa. Photo: Mal Sutherland
Filming at Dee Why, 1958. L to R: Bob Rose, Di Simpson, Bernie Huddle, Artie Taylor, Joe with camera, Chris Steelberg, Bob Patton with form guide.
Joe solo at Noosa National Park, 1963. Photo: Mal Sutherland
Brian “Furry” Austin, Joe, Ken Alexander and Jim Spriggs. Photo: Mal Sutherland

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